We've all experienced it. Your writing is churning along happily, you're a fountain of ideas, and you're steadily turning these into proposals, outlines and submissions. But then you hit a wall. The idea of sitting at your computer is unappealing, and if you do, you end up surfing the net rather than writing. Themes and stories seem elusive and the only thing staring back at you is a blank page or screen. At times like this you look at your clip file not with a feeling of "Wow! I did that!", but rather, "How the hell did I do that?"
So to prepare for those writing slumps, or to lift yourself from a current writing low, here are a few suggestions to get you back on track.
1. Increase your market research time. Use your writing time to research your most sought-after markets. Don't just skim guideline databases and directories -- a practice we can easily fall into, particularly when we are on a writing roll. Hit your libraries/bookstores and study the content/layout of the publications you wish to write for. Hint: Keep a list handy of articles you've already written and sold during this exercise.
2. Prepare for the slow periods during your highs. When motivation is high and the creative juices are flowing, make time to "stock pile" a number of outlines, preferably in bullet point format, of short straightforward articles. By having these outlines "on reserve" for the times when you are feeling unmotivated, you have any easy starting point that will keep you writing and restore your confidence.
3. Give yourself a writing break. Go walking, go for a swim or hit the gym. Anything healthy will be time well invested in your writing. A fit and healthy writer will definitely be a more productive and creative one.
4. Pull out back copies of writing magazines. This is a good time to catch up on advice articles, market updates and writing tutorials that you missed or skimmed on your first read. Study them as you would a text book at school, taking notes and highlighting points relevant to your own writing.
5. Change your writing habits. If you write in the evenings, try writing first thing in the morning. If you always work on a laptop or PC, switch to paper or notebook. Change your pen, your paper, work outside -- anything that adds a "newness" to your writing environment.
6. Forget the epics and work on "List" articles. Forget the "marathons" and focus on some writing "sprints", such as quick, short, sharp advice pieces with with titles like "The 10 Best ..." Later, when you are back in the groove, these can always be developed into longer features or essays.
7. Repackage and resell. Take your previous articles that have been successful and edit, repackage and sell them to those markets you unearthed in your market research exercise (see suggestion number 1).
8. Remove distractions. During a writing high, distractions seem to filter themselves out, but during a lull they come through loud and clear. Be disciplined and shut off the Internet, the television, the radio, the CD player, and give yourself room in your head for ideas and sentences to evolve.
9. Revisit your idea notebooks. This can unearth gems that you haven't yet polished -- ideas and themes that may have not made your earlier pieces, but can help spark a new article or story.
10. Don't aim for perfection. It may only be half an idea, two suggestions for your "The 10 Best..." list. It doesn't matter, just get it down on paper. It's amazing how the rest follows.
When you have tried these ideas, whether they have produced the results you were hoping for or not, remind yourself that you are miles ahead of those who say "Yeah, I'd like to write." You're already there!
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